They’ve chronicled the U.S. presidential election for months (years? eons?), criss-crossing the country and filing dispatches with headlines like “Why it takes only a broken taillight for America to erupt,” “Giant meteor or Trump vs Clinton? It’s a hard call for some US voters,” and “Donald Trump’s exploitation of Orlando benefits ISIS.” Now they’re preparing to cover one of America’s signature political spectacles: the nominating convention. And they’re uniquely positioned to provide some of the sharpest and most original analysis of the race.
Ahead of the Republican and Democratic conventions, I spoke with four foreign correspondents about how they’re making sense of the 2016 election and explaining the campaign to their audience. The Lebanese journalist Joyce Karam, who has covered U.S. politics since 2004 and serves as the Washington bureau chief for the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, expressed concern about her safety—even about openly speaking Arabic—at the GOP convention in Cleveland, given Trump’s rhetoric about Muslims. The German journalist Matthias Kolb, who’s covering his second U.S. presidential contest for the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s website, argued that America isn’t as divided as it seems. Like most of the reporters I spoke with, the Australian journalist Zoe Daniel, who’s covering her first U.S. election for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, said she has struggled to understand America’s inaction on gun violence. I asked the Indian journalist Chidanand Rajghatta, a Times of India correspondent who’s been attending conventions since 1996, about his strangest experience so far on the campaign trail. He said simply: “Every time Mr. Trump opens his mouth.”